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What to Expect: Week 9

All games can be seen on ESPN+ and TSN+

Fri. Jan. 27

Knighthawks (6-0) at Thunderbirds (3-3) – 6pm ET

Week 9 starts off with the lone undefeated team left in the NLL traveling to the Nest in Halifax on Friday night. These two will see each other twice in the next three weeks in what could sway momentum in the East Conference.

Last week the Knighthawks got arguably their biggest win in their young franchise’s history, defeating their rival in the Buffalo Bandits by a score of 15-12. A slow start saw them trail 8-5 at the half but in the second half they came alive, scoring 10 goals over the final 30 including five straight in the fourth. Sophomore Ryan Smith had a game high nine points with five goals including a huge momentum dunk goal late in the fourth. Matt Gilray was everywhere on the floor with a goal, an assist, 10 loose balls and a blocked shot. In net, Rylan Hartley outdueled Matt Vinc, saving 44 of 56 shots, including eight of nine in the fourth quarter.

Halifax comes in off a bye week. In their previous weekend, they dropped both of their games, the first to Albany at home in overtime and then a thrashing by the Rock in Hamilton. Jake Withers is holding a casual 81% faceoff win percentage through six games played, leading the league with 142 wins at the draw. He is more than that to this team with six caused turnovers and four blocked shots on the defensive end. The Thunderbirds are averaging the most penalty minutes per game on the season at 25 per game.

Last season, the Knighthawks dropped both contests to the Thunderbirds. In the last one on April 30, Halifax took the 13-10 win in Rochester. Cody Jamieson recorded two goals and two assists for the winning side whereas Curtis Knight for Rochester provided support by the means of two goals and three assists. These two teams lead the league in penalty kill percentage as well as goals for per game. For what was a meaningless game for Rochester in the standings last year will surely have a different feeling to it this time around.

Bandits (4-2) at Wings (2-3) – 7pm ET

The latter matchup on Friday includes two teams who lost their games in Week 8.

As mentioned, Buffalo fell to the Knighthawks in a competitive game but could not hold onto their lead in the second half. The two headed monster of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith combined for 14 points and eight goals, but their teammates combined for just four more goals total. Those two are one and two in the league in points with Josh leading in goals and Dhane leading in assists. They hold the two spot in the East above Toronto due to having a better in conference win percentage.

The Wings had an abysmal performance in Week 8. Despite scoring the first goal of the game and only allowing one goal in the first, the Rock would go on to score 13 straight goals between the first and fourth quarters. The Wings were shut out in the middle frames but managed to scrounge four goals in the fourth. While the offense could not provide the production needed, Ryan Wagner has put his body on the line this season, blocking a league leading 10 shots.

The Bandits took both their games against the Wings last year. The last was a 17-12 win for the Bandits in Philadelphia in front of 10,688 fans. Five different Buffalo players had multi goal games and the defense had a collective 17 caused turnovers. The Wings tried to make it interesting with a seven goal fourth quarter but were trailing 14-5 entering the frame.

Sat. Jan. 28

Bandits (TBD) at Riptide (1-4) – 7:30pm ET

Day two of Week 9 starts with the Bandits playing in their second game of the weekend, travelling in from Philadelphia to Long Island to take on the Riptide who won their first game of the season last week.

With the array of changes made to the Riptide organization and lineup, they put up a convincing win against the Albany FireWolves, 16-10. To no one’s surprise, Jeff Teat bounced back from a couple of poor performances with 12 points in the win, earning him player of the week honors. Street free agent add Brett Hickey made a memorable debut, scoring two goals on six points in his first game donning a Riptide uniform. The defense helped goaltender Steve Orleman in net by blocking 11 FireWolves shots.

The Riptide were one of a few teams to steal a win away from the Bandits last year with their win on April 9. The Bandits would trail 10-3 at the half, including a seven goal run for the Riptide. Teat would record three goals in each half but the offensive unit went to work on the loose balls, with five forwards collecting five or more on the night. Steven Orleman had a wonderful performance, saving 42 of 54 shots on net.

Desert Dogs (1-4) at Rush (2-2) – 8:30pm ET

The Desert Dogs coming off their first win in franchise history will get to travel to Saskatoon for the first time in their young history.

In what looked like a lopsided loss turned into one of the most impressive comebacks in recent memory for Las Vegas. Trailing 12-4 at the half, the Warriors were rolling. An end of half scuffle would see the Desert Dogs on the penalty kill early in the second half which they killed off, scored a shorthanded goal, and stopped a penalty shot. The Desert Dogs scored eight straight from the third and fourth quarters to tie the game at 12 each. Vancouver would get an answer followed by three straight for Las Vegas to put the game away by a score of 15-14. Rookie Jack Hannah had a hattrick in the second half on a seven-point night to earn rookie of the week honors. Landon Kells in net stood tall after subbing into the game, allowing just two goals in the second half on 24 shots.

The Rush come in off a bye in Week 8. In their last game on January 13, they fell in overtime to the Colorado Mammoth. No team scored more than two consecutive goals which made for an ultra-competitive game. Dan Lintner did most of the damage with four goals and two assists while Alex Buque held Colorado to just 11 goals on the night. The teams two losses both came in overtime. With two slightly different bounces, this team could be 4-0 and leading the West but still has room for improvement.

Rock (4-2) at Roughnecks (3-2) – 9pm ET – Game of the Week on TSN

The Game of the Week on TSN showcases two of the most historic franchises in the NLL from both sides of the country up north.

The Rock ran away with their game from Philadelphia, at one point scoring 13 straight goals to win 14-5. In their wins, the Rock are winning by an average margin of 9.5 goals so while the wins have looked easy, their losses have been by tighter margins. Nick Rose is making an early case for Goaltender of the Year after being a finalist last season, right now with the highest save percentage in the NLL at 83%, and third in minutes played and saves. Brad Kri leads the league in forced turnovers.

Calgary had a bye in Week 8 as well, but their last game out was a redeeming win against the then undefeated San Diego Seals, 14-10. While former Riggers in Wes Berg, Dane Dobbie, and Curtis Dickson had productive games, it was not enough to defeat Calgary. A quick 5-0 lead in the first helped propel the Roughnecks. Goaltender Christian Del Bianco had 40 saves on 50 shots and three assists to his credit.

These two have not seen each other since right before the pandemic shut down the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Calgary took the win, 13-10. While many of the offensive faces have changed, Shane Simpson and Zach Currier had huge contributions for the Roughnecks with a combined two goals, two assists, 15 loose ball recoveries, and four caused turnovers.

Seals (4-1) at Mammoth (3-1) – 9pm ET

Saturday continues with a rematch of the West Conference Finals from last season between the Mammoth and Seals to decide the leader in the conference. The regular season history favors the Seals, but the recency favors the Mammoth.

The Mammoth are on a three-game win streak after their bad loss in the opening weekend of the season. Last week they had a bye but their last two games were played at home and decided in heart-pounding overtime action against conference foes in the Roughnecks and Rush. They have two more games on their homestand which could set them up for success if they take care of business at the Loud House.

San Diego has not quite put together a full 60 minutes yet, which should be scary for opposing teams considering they still lead the West at 4-1. After starting 4-0, the Seals fell to Calgary on January 14. Youngster Chris Origlieri saw most of the action in net for San Diego and has done so for their past two games which could make for an interesting decision of who plays in net moving forward.

The Seals took two of three from the Mammoth in the regular season but the Mammoth took two of three in the West Conference Finals. In Game 3, the Mammoth went to Pechanga and won 15-13, outscoring the Seals 10-4 in the second half. Eli McLaughlin was other-worldly with 12 points to lead the game, eight being recorded in the second half. In Game 2, the Seals won in overtime with a nifty Dane Dobbie goal to force Game 3.

Panther City (3-3) at Vancouver (1-5) – 10pm ET

Week 9 concludes with a West Conference matchup of teams going in potentially different directions.

Panther City had lost three straight before defeating the Philadelphia Wings two weeks ago by a final of 12-10. Will Malcom had four goals and seven different players scored a goal on the night. Since their last game, they made a couple of big moves, bringing in Jake Fox and veteran Callum Crawford from New York in two separate trades to bolster their offense. A busy offense looks to keep producing but could lead to more moves in the coming weeks when you think the team has Caputo, Donville, Dodds, Fairall, Gautier, Grenon and Milligan all trying to compete for spots out the front door.

Vancouver had another heart-breaking loss in which they held a large lead, conceding to the Desert Dogs last weekend. They were able to get Joel Watson pulled early and cruised into the half 12-4 and scoring five of seven goals in the quarter. The offense fell flat in the second half, scoring just two goals total in the loss by a final score of 15-14. Consistency has been a tough find for the Warriors for when you look at the box score, it looks like they would have dominated but could not slow down a Desert Dogs team that believed they could. Aden Walsh has seemingly taken the reins in net for the Warriors and the offense is putting up more goals from a slow start to the season.

This is the first meeting between these two West Conference opponents this season. Last year, Panther City took two of three from Vancouver. In the last matchup on February 26, Panther City escaped with a late victory 11-10 behind Patrick Dodds’ game winning goal with less than a minute remaining.

 

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